Health Ministry laments Treasury’s sluggish disbursements

An official in the Health and Child Care Ministry says late disbursements of the 2022 National Budget allocations are impeding their operations.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

The Health Ministry’s Acting Finance Director Ms Lynette Tennis revealed this to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health during a workshop for legislators monitoring special drawing rights (SDR) projects on Tuesday.

She stated at the workshop facilitated by the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust that they are getting meager funds from their share of the 2022 National Budget.

“The releases have been too little to make an impact to whatever we have to do as the Ministry of Health to achieve our mandate. The hospitals have not been getting support from the Ministry of Finance and as we move forward we received a circular in August that made it worse saying there is need for due diligence to be taken for all procurement that is being done. We are yet to get responses for whatever we submitted to them.

“Funds have not been coming to the ministry. Releases have been too little for the ministry, and we have not been getting support from Treasury. We managed to get 11% of our capital budget and we always ask when the other is going to come,”she was quoted as saying.

Tennis noted they last got money from the Treasury in August.

She said they face challenges in procuring of medicines because the Finance Ministry is not releasing funds.

“They cite cash-flow challenges,” Tennis said.

Parliamentarians in June grilled the Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube for thus sluggish disbursement of the money his Ministry alloted to the Health and Child Care Ministry.

Bulawayo Central Member of Parliament Honourable Nicola Watson asked Minister Ncube who flaunted the successes of his fiscal policies why the Health Ministry had half way through the year had received only 14 percent.

“Why is it that key ministries like the Ministry of Health had 14 percent of their operational budget to date? We heard about poverty levels, many Zimbabweans rely on public health institutions and operational budget means that even for

the doctors and nurses – there is nothing they can do,” she said.

The Treasury boss spoke on the monies they spent on COVID-19 vaccines, and refurbishment of Mpilo Hospital and the new clinic recently opened in Stoneridge.

But Hon. Watson said, “My question has nothing to do with the Ministry of Health per se but it has to do with the Ministry of Finance disbursements. Why is it that you have only disbursed 14% of operational budget which buys drugs, dialysis kits and those requirements for medical facilities? What is the point of opening a new medical facility if it will only have bandages in it?”

Responded Minister Ncube, “It is very important to open new medical facilities unlike what the Hon. Member is suggesting. We want to open additional facilities and make sure that they are properly equipped with the right level of personnel. The Ministry of Finance does not force ministries to take money from them. The Ministries request money. There is a process for disbursement and Ministry of Health has followed that process and the Ministry of Finance has responded accordingly on those draw-downs. I thank you.”

Bulawayo Metropolitan legislator Honourable Jasmine Toffa expressed concern that the Health Ministry was not getting money in time.

” The point here Hon. Minister is that the Ministry of Health has only received 14% of the budget currently. So they received $19 million, meaning that the funds are being eaten away by inflation. So, our concern as a Committee is that the Ministry of Health is not getting the funding timeously. Why is that so Hon. Minister?” she said.

Harare North parliamentarian Honourable Allan Markham said at the rate the Zimbabwean dollar is depreciating from the time its allocation from Treasury was announced with only 14 percent disbursed, it meant they disbursed nothing to the Health Ministry.

 

“Thank you Madam Speaker. I need a point of clarity from the Minister before I ask my supplementary question. He can answer them together. My point of clarity is, the Minister is sayinghe is distributing the money timeously. That now means the Ministry of Health is not asking for the money. Can the Minister confirm that the Ministry of Health has received all the money that they have asked for and they are the ones that are causing the delay so that only 14% of the budget has been disbursed? That is my point of clarity. However, given that the exchange rate, for example when we did the budget, the parallel rate was ZW$200 and the Government rate was ZW$85. It is now three times that. If you have only distributed the original budget of 14%, the things are costing three times more, it means that your 14% is divided by three. In other words, you have distributed

nothing to the Ministry of Health. Can the Minister confirm that if the Ministry of Health is getting everything they require, then we should be now at 50% of the budget issued? I thank you,” he said.

Prof Ncube maintained the Health Ministry received the money they asked for on time. “Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. I can confirm that the Ministry of Health has received all the resources that it has asked from Treasury timeously. So far we see very good performance from that Ministry. I thank you,” he said.

Treasury had given the Health Ministry ZW$117,7 billion which was 12,7% of the total ZW$927,3 billion 2022 budget last year.

According to Ncube’s budget statement, the health budget for 2022 was ZW$117,7 billion. This is the third largest allocation, after agriculture and primary and secondary education, which got ZW$124 billion each.

In his budget speech, Ncube claimed that the health allocation amounted to nearly 15% of the total budget, which would comply with the Abuja Declaration.

“The 2022 National Budget has allocated ZWL$117.7 billion to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which represents 14.9% of the Budget,” Minister Ncube said.

 

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